It was a move that would pay large returns the following season. On this day, injured third baseman Eric Soderholm signed a free agent deal with the White Sox.
Soderholm would become Comeback Player of the Year for 1977, with 25 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .280 batting average. His production would help lead the South Side Hit Men to a remarkable, 90-win season.
Soderholm had missed the entire 1976 campaign with a severe leg injury suffered when he was still with the Twins, and was one of the first proponents of a Nautilus exercise system that was his key to getting back to the majors.
Continuing a spending splurge in anticipation of a franchise sale from Bill Veeck to Edward DeBartolo Jr., the White Sox signed Ron LeFlore away from the Expos. Terms were not announced, but an educated guess puts the deal at three years, $2.1 million, making it at the time the biggest signing in White Sox history.
LeFlore was coming off of a .257, 2.5-WAR season in Montreal, where he led the majors in stolen bases with 97 — the third-best all-time in modern baseball history.
However, the speedster was an unmitigated failure in Chicago, with his performance dragged down by advancing age (LeFlore, upon retirement, admitted he was four years older than listed, meaning he was nearly 33 by the time he played his first game on the South Side) and returning demons (signing so close to Detroit, where LeFlore fell into a felonious youth and was in fact incarcerated prior to starting his career with the Tigers). Over just 173 games in two seasons, LeFlore put up 1.3 WAR with a .663 OPS and 88 OPS+ for the White Sox.
In late 1982, playing in what would turn out to be one of his last White Sox games, LeFlore took a soft line drive to center field off of his forehead, resulting in an embarrassing inside-the-park home run.
His lackluster and unmotivated 1982, tense relationship with manager Tony La Russa, a very poor spring training in 1983, and improving White Sox roster saw the club cutting LeFlore despite owing him $700,000 for the 1983 season. Thus the third highest-paid player on the 1983 club (behind Floyd Bannister and Greg Luzinski) sat out the entire division-winning season.
The White Sox hired Gene Lamont as the new manager, replacing Jeff Torborg. Lamont was hired on Pirates manager and former Sox coach Jim Leyland’s stellar recommendation (Lamont was a coach on Leyland’s staff).
The quiet, laid-back Lamont would lead the White Sox to the Western Division title in 1993 and be named Manager of the Year. He’d also guide the Sox to the Central Division lead at the time of the labor impasse in 1994. However, with the Sox getting off to a slow start in 1995, he was fired by the team in June.